Things are finally starting to come together for the Heat this preseason. After a more then questionable start, the team is beginning to get in stride while still adjusting to new faces and many many different lineups, getting their 2nd straight win of the preseason, 99-93 over Memphis.
Despite Erik Spoelstra tossing out his 6th different starting lineup in as many games, guys are working on their individual games in preparation for a season that will likely have several consistent lineups, as Heat coaches showed us last year that they will put out whichever 5 guys they feel match up the best with the opponent.
One lineup note to report is that all signs point to Michael Beasley starting the year at small forward. This is a move that I haven't been crazy about as I see Beasley as more of a power forward, but the more I think about it the more I realize that this move could work. First off, even if Beasley starts the game at power forward, I'm sure he'll get some minutes at the 4 when Udonis Haslem is off the court.
Also, when the Heat go with a small lineup, Haslem will be playing center and Beas will be power forward. With the improvements that Beasley has made defensively and his rapidly expanding offensive prowess, the mismatches that he'll be creating should greatly benefit everyone on the floor (other then the Heat's opponent, lol). Spoelstra will have his hands full trying to keep Beasley on the floor while getting minutes for guys like James Jones and Quentin Richardson, who are proving that they can be major outside threats that will stretch the defense even more for Beasley, Haslem and Jermaine O'Neal.
Beasley sat out last night's game still nursing his bruised left shoulder and will be a game time decision tonight in Jacksonville against the Hawks. With Beasley out of lineup and only 2 games left in the preseason, D-Wade decided that it was time to stretch his wings.
Wade played 30 minutes and looked to be in mid-season form, creating for himself off the dribble, driving the ball and getting to the foul line as well as creating turnovers which led to points for Miami. 35 points on 13-of-23 shooting for Dwyane, who got to the foul line 14 times, hitting 9. He added 5 rebounds, 2 assists and a team high 6 steals. With the improved supporting cast around him, we could be in store for another Jordan-like season from Wade, so prepare yourselves.
Another great game and hopefully a sign of things to come was by Jermaine O'Neal. He obviously came out last night with the intention of playing ‘big guy', attacking the glass and playing stout defense. Like Wade, O'Neal also played 30 minutes. He had 8 points, 8 boards and 4 blocks. I would love games like that from Jermaine every night, but it makes me wonder where that effort is on a gamely basis. It's not unreasonable to expect that he'll grab 3 boards in his next game...but lets hope that last night was a sign of things to come.
Udonis Haslem also brought his ‘A' game to the AAA, reminding everyone that he can still be a dominant presence in the Heat frontcourt. If you remember, last season it took Haslem until the spring before his jumper began falling with the consistency that makes his game so dangerous. He worked hard all summer to ensure that he'd have all his weapons at his disposal throughout the entire season. Last night he led the Heat with 35 minutes and 9 rebounds. He added 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting and was equally good on defense.
Once again the Heat shot very well as a team (50.0%), but struggled from beyond the arc (22.2%) and from the foul line (60.7%). The free throw shooting could be a nuisance as it's something the Heat has struggled with for a while.
The poor 3-point shooting last night likely was due to James Jones being held out of the lineup and Daequan Cook having an off night. Cook went only 1-for-6 from beyond, Yakhouba Diawara went 1-for-5 and Quentin Richardson hit only 1-of-3.
Carlos Arroyo was the Heat's best point guard last night, continuing to improve while learning on the fly. In 26 minutes he scored 8 points on 4-of-6 and dished out 4 assists. Meanwhile, Mario Chalmers went scoreless in 21 minutes missing both of his shot attempts. On the plus side, he grabbed 3 rebounds and dished out 3 assists. With Wade having a dominant game and playing some minutes at the point, it isn't easy for these guys to get a rhythm going.
Dorell Wright finally had a good game this preseason, but you still have to wonder where he is going to fit into Miami's rotation when the regular season rolls around. Last night he played 24 minutes and shot 3-of-5, including a three pointer. Wright finished with 7 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist and no turnovers.
Tonight the Heat will look wrap up their preseason with three straight wins. Their opponent will be those same Atlanta Hawks that knocked us out of the playoffs last season. Tip off is at 7pm from Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.
The Heat will be without guard John Lucas III who was released today, bringing the Heat roster down to the 15 player maximum that NBA teams are allowed. Miami is hanging on to power forward Shavlik Randolph, who also had a non-guaranteed contract, which I figured would happen with Beasley being used as a small forward.